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New Mexico land deal creates its largest state-owned recreation area

 Stakeholders celebrate the acquisition of the L Bar Project to the Marquez Wildlife Area, creating the state's largest state-owned recreation area. The group includes Theresa Pasqual of Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo Gov. Martin Kowemy Jr., Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, and Hopi Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma.
Emma Gibson, KUNM
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Stakeholders celebrate the acquisition of the L Bar Project to the Marquez Wildlife Area, creating the state's largest state-owned recreation area. The group includes Theresa Pasqual of Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo Gov. Martin Kowemy Jr., Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, and Hopi Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma.

News brief

New Mexico officials this week celebrated the addition of more than 54,000 acres to create its largest state-owned recreation area. The acreage, known as the L Bar Project, was acquired by the Trust for Public Land and is one of about 100 projects they’re supporting in the Mountain West.

The grassland valleys are full of junipers and piñon trees that provide winter forage for wildlife with higher elevations full of ponderosa pines. The landscape is dotted with dramatic cliffs and the remains of volcanoes.

Adding the land to the Marquez Wildlife Area has more than quadrupled its size – and is a boon to tribal leaders and environmental advocates.

Local tribes can now access traditional lands and sacred places in the area, which sits northeast of Mount Taylor, an extinct volcano significant in several tribal creation stories.

Theresa Pasqual of Acoma Pueblo was part of the team advocating for buying the property from private landowners.

“When we restore people’s connection to land, we restore their oral history; we restore their identity for future generations; we restore their cultural connection to the landscape that hadn’t seen their footprints in generations,” Pasqual said while overlooking the mesas, grasslands and remains of volcanoes of the area.

It also will provide outdoor recreation opportunities for people who like to hunt or hike. Herds of elk and deer migrate across the area, and it’s home to black bears and mountain lions.

One of the goals of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is to restore the pronghorn population there and open it to hunters in fall 2023.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham celebrated the addition of the wildlife area at Laguna Pueblo Wednesday.

“These projects…these investments in future generations, this protection of the wildlife and the habitat, this re-recognition of sovereignty – all of that will create the opportunity for more investments,” she said.

In the Mountain West region, the Trust for Public Land is supporting 96 projects. The most up-to-date totals include 46 projects in Colorado, 11 in New Mexico, eight in Utah, five in Idaho and three in Wyoming.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 KUNM. To see more, visit KUNM.

Emma Gibson
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